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Thread: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

  1. #21
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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Qureshpor,
    I think you understate the diversity of native English speech. I imagine it would take you some time to get understand and pick up the native English speech of places like the Carribbean, Australia, and even rural parts of the UK.
    That being said, Arabic is similar. But I do believe that widespread satelite TV and internet are having a homogenizing effect on Arabic dialects. It's only natural that the younger generations growing up watching/listening to Arabic from all over begin to speak more neutrally.

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Quote Originally Posted by bearded man View Post
    But aren't newspapers written and radio/TV news spoken in MSA all over the Arab world? Does this fact have no influence ? And isn't MSA taught in all schools? Why shouldn't it prevail over the dialects in the long run?
    Because MSA is extremely difficult, even for Arabs...
    As well, 9 times out of 10, the texts aren't vowelled/nunnated/etc; since you aren't getting the case endings, nunnation, etc, you're just getting a very formal colloquial rather than MSA... As a matter of fact, I always laugh when I hear someone speak MSA as written.
    More people watch TV than Read, as well... TV is HARDLY in MSA... 90% of shows are in dialect, either Egyptian, Syrian, or Gulf.

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    This talk about the Maghreb for me is very peculiar. If anything I've found maghrebins more keen on speaking modern standard than mashreqis. For example i accidentally came across a gaming channel by a tunisian today and he forms his entire sentences in modern standard. This is almost unheard of in the mashreq but with tunisians i meet it seems quite normal, and also a number of moroccans and algerians i met. They feel they overcome dialect differences by doing this while mashreqis are rather more lazy or arrogant to expect that others should understand their dialect.
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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Quote Originally Posted by إسكندراني View Post
    They feel they overcome dialect differences by doing this while mashreqis are rather more lazy or arrogant to expect that others should understand their dialect.
    It depends of the people and where you live also. In Paris, there is a lot of Egyptians (in my neighborhood) and as they live with Maghrebians, they understand them with no problem. It depends how much you're exposed to other dialects.

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Of course when the one party understands the other's dialect then there's no need to speak in more "cumbersome" MSA.
    But I think Iskander was referring to situations when that is not the case.

    I think many maghribis often assume that their own dialect is not widely understood so they are accustomed to using MSA in the public sphere.
    On the other hand most Egyptians, Levantines and others presume that their dialect is widely understood and the idea of speaking in MSA is unfamiliar to them.

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Quote Originally Posted by suma View Post
    Qureshpor,
    I think you understate the diversity of native English speech. I imagine it would take you some time to get understand and pick up the native English speech of places like the Carribbean, Australia, and even rural parts of the UK.
    That being said, Arabic is similar. But I do believe that widespread satelite TV and internet are having a homogenizing effect on Arabic dialects. It's only natural that the younger generations growing up watching/listening to Arabic from all over begin to speak more neutrally.
    Yes, it might take me a while to understand these varieties but a little time spent getting oneself familiar with them will remove any short time problems. And, any educated Australian, Afro-Caribbean native or a rural inhabitant of the UK will understand their prime minister speaking in their respective parliament! None of them will find Standard English "cumbersome"!

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Quote Originally Posted by Qureshpor View Post
    ... None of them will find Standard English "cumbersome"!
    That's debatable.

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Quote Originally Posted by vinyljunkie619 View Post
    Because MSA is extremely difficult, even for Arabs...
    As well, 9 times out of 10, the texts aren't vowelled/nunnated/etc; since you aren't getting the case endings, nunnation, etc, you're just getting a very formal colloquial rather than MSA...
    As a matter of fact, I always laugh when I hear someone speak MSA as written.
    More people watch TV than Read, as well... TV is HARDLY in MSA... 90% of shows are in dialect, either Egyptian, Syrian, or Gulf.
    Frankly, I find this incredible and perhaps even laughable. Beyond Arabic itself, two major languages that employ the Arabic script, namely Urdu and Persian, also make do with a mode of writing that does not employ short vowels. I assure you both Urdu and Persian speakers read their respective languages with complete ease. If the majority of Arabs are unable to provide the correct vowels whilst speaking MSA, then all I can say is that there is a serious issue within the Arab world over the quality of education being provided.

    If people are not reading much, then I am not surprised if their language reading and speaking ability inclines towards illiteracy.






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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Quote Originally Posted by suma View Post
    That's debatable.
    Very much so.
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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Quote Originally Posted by Qureshpor View Post
    Frankly, I find this incredible and perhaps even laughable. Beyond Arabic itself, two major languages that employ the Arabic script, namely Urdu and Persian, also make do with a mode of writing that does not employ short vowels. I assure you both Urdu and Persian speakers read their respective languages with complete ease. If the majority of Arabs are unable to provide the correct vowels whilst speaking MSA, then all I can say is that there is a serious issue within the Arab world over the quality of education being provided.

    If people are not reading much, then I am not surprised if their language reading and speaking ability inclines towards illiteracy.





    Could you quote me where I said they were unable? No. I said since most texts are unvoweled, they are not being forced to use case endings, which is fact. Most people read fos7a as a formal colloquial...

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Quote Originally Posted by Qureshpor View Post
    Frankly, I find this incredible and perhaps even laughable. Beyond Arabic itself, two major languages that employ the Arabic script, namely Urdu and Persian, also make do with a mode of writing that does not employ short vowels. I assure you both Urdu and Persian speakers read their respective languages with complete ease. If the majority of Arabs are unable to provide the correct vowels whilst speaking MSA, then all I can say is that there is a serious issue within the Arab world over the quality of education being provided.
    If people are not reading much, then I am not surprised if their language reading and speaking ability inclines towards illiteracy.
    The reasons you mentioned are sadly true.
    But the difference between MSA and colloquial dialects is wider than that of, say, formal Persian (or English) and informal Persian (or English). That is probably true for Urdu too. You know better of course.
    (see post #6 by barkoosh, it mentions the huge differences very nicely)

    I don't know if this is related, but even in pronunciation, very few people pronounce the letters 100% correctly.
    If you're familiar with all dialects then you can tell where an Arab person is from even when they speak in MSA (except for professional journalists and presenters or clerics of course).

    If you give us a paragraph (in MSA) and ask us to point out the diacritics, then the majority of us are bound to make a few mistakes although we perfectly understand what the paragraph says. My point is that very few people are aware of all the ins and outs of Arabic grammar. I am certainly not among them but I am trying to learn or re-learn it though English is of more importance to me because of my major.
    I hope you get my point.
    Last edited by aisha93; 22nd October 2013 at 10:39 AM.

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    The case ending (declension) vowelization is one thing.
    But the voweling within the body of the word is something different, and I believe native arab speakers have no problem with that aspect; taking also into consideration grammatically acceptable variations.

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Quote Originally Posted by suma View Post
    The case ending (declension) vowelization is one thing.
    But the voweling within the body of the word is something different, and I believe native arab speakers have no problem with that aspect; taking also into consideration grammatically acceptable variations.
    Ok, you guys are not getting my point.... You guys are focusing too much on READING vowels as opposed to acknowledging them...
    the biggest difference between MSA and dialects is the lack of case endings, verbal mood markers, etc which are allllllll shown by voweling.
    The difference between adhaba, adhab, and adhabu is all in voweling
    The difference between kitaabu, kitaaba, and kitaabi is all in voweling
    The difference between 3aada and 3aadatan (adverbially) is all in voweling
    Nunnation is all in voweling...
    Without voweling, these words all look identical, and when I read a vowel-less text, I read it as if it were colloquial, just with more lofty language.
    All of these features have been lost by dialects except nunnation in certain instances in Gulf Arabic.
    If you are not acknowledging, i.e. pronouncing these vowels, you are technically NOT speaking MSA but a highly collegiate formal colloquial.
    If vowelling were compulsory, people would have a much better understanding of the technicalities that separate MSA from Dialects, and be able to adequately reproduce them. MSA is more of a language that is understood than reproduced... A lot of Arabs are losing confidence in MSA, especially in the eastern countries, where only a passive understanding is required, as opposed to people in the west being able to reproduce it to a higher accuracy due to being more necessary so that Arabs in the west can understand them.
    Furthermore, a lot of times when I hear Arabic on TV that is SUPPOSED to be Fos7a, I hear it without all the case endings/nunnation/verbal mood endings/adverbial markers.
    I feel that these easily deleted/unacknowledged things, stated above, are what make fos7a, fos7a... Similar to enunciating in English.

    This does not, and I repeat, does not have anything to do with literacy/reading ability as it pertains to Arabs, or any group of people who use Arabic script.
    Last edited by vinyljunkie619; 23rd October 2013 at 6:36 PM. Reason: missed a word

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Quote Originally Posted by Qureshpor View Post
    I am grateful to everyone who has responded to my question. I am somewhat perplexed that Arabic speaking people find English or French easier to communicate in than in MSA!
    I don't think this is the case outside the Francophone countries though, where it's not particularly surprising - widespread bilingualism + lack of prestige for MSA tends to produce that sort of result. In Jordan - the only mashriq country I have any real extensive experience of - plenty of people are able to communicate in a kind of MSA, and often do. They don't produce case vowels, but then who does? Syria is apparently even more MSA-heavy; in Jordan many people want to learn English (but not that many actually speak it that well), in Syria apparently that impetus is absent and MSA is highly prestigious. Very few people speak MSA as very narrowly defined as having case endings, but most Syrians I've met and many Jordanians have no problem whatsoever producing high-register language I would identify as MSA. By some definitions izdād aṣ-siḫṭ tijāh al-ġarb intišāran or whatever is not MSA - but they certainly aren't what I'd call colloquial either.

    Languages have regional variations or dialects but there is always a "standard" form of speech, be this in the UK, USA, France, Indo-Pak Subcontinent, or anywhere else. I fail to see what is so different about MSA that Arabs can not get their tongues around it. Give me 6 months absorbed in MSA environment and I shall be as fluent as the professors in Al-Azhar! If the Israelis are able to give life to a dead language and bring mass literacy in it, why can't Arabs keep hold of a dying (?) language and promote mass literacy in that?
    The thing is there is no 'MSA environment'. You are imagining MSA as analogous to standard English - which it isn't. There are, arguably, speakers of standard English - especially in the domain of pronunciation - and even the colloquial speech of these people does not differ enormously from the literary language. Obviously there's a register difference, but ultimately they are speaking much like they write. There is an enormous gulf between MSA and colloquials which makes learning it much more like studying a foreign language. At the same time, though, I wouldn't say that MSA and the colloquials are different languages - they're more like extremes of a particularly wide continuum of registers.

    If you are not acknowledging, i.e. pronouncing these vowels, you are technically NOT speaking MSA but a highly collegiate formal colloquial.
    Well this really depends what you mean by MSA. I would say that even read without most of the case endings (except ـًا and a few lexicalised ـةًs or whatever) MSA is still very much distinct from colloquial in structure and vocabulary. Obviously there is considerable blurring between very pedantic, elevated colloquial Arabic and lower-register MSA, but this is to be expected - they're not two distinct languages. Whilst I know that the Arabic tradition generally views any linguistic change from the Qur'anic period as errors (since traditional linguistics is based heavily on jāhili poetry and the Qur'an) and thus not MSA (= فصحى), from a 'western' linguistics perspective I think it's pretty easy to distinguish MSA as normally read, without most ḥarakāt, from colloquial.

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    There are MSA environments, but its a matter of personal choice. Ew people grow up surrounded by the queen's English all their lives either, but attending a grammar school and tuning in to radio four will affect the way they end up speaking. Even having said that they will still address their plumber in a different register.

    to make it clear, the big deal with msa not being speakable is indicative of a lack of exposure to the arab world at length, few people speak it as a first language but most educated arabs acquire it to some degree. In egypt just as much as anywhere else.
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    Quote Originally Posted by suma View Post
    That's debatable.
    We could but it won't serve any useful purpose. So, we'll agree to disagree.

    Quote Originally Posted by k8an View Post
    [...] With the pan-Arabism era, MSA was promoted to a higher degree. Some people embraced the idea and proficiency and literacy highly improved, whilst many others defied it. In the "Arab world", there are of course extremely large and significant populations of non-Arabs (Berbers, Kurds, Assyrians, Jews, Arameans, Persians, Turkmen, Baluchis etc etc) with their own languages and cultures who hold them very dearly and resist Arabisation to certain degrees. For example, as part of the Arab Spring movements, Berber groups in Morocco campaigned so strongly for recognition that Berber was made an official language of the country alongside MSA.
    We have a comparable situation in Pakistan. There are regional languages such as Pashto. Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi and others. I as a Punjabi speakers would have to resort to Urdu to communicate with people of other ethnicities within Pakistan.
    As well as these, there are also large groups of people who do actually speak Arabic dialects as their first spoken languages but do not consider themselves as Arabs in the ethnic or cultural sense. This is highly controversial and cannot be clearly defined around national borders but includes some segments of the Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian, Sudanese, Somali, Iraqi and North African populations. Some of these people also retain non-Arabic languages for religious uses (the Maronite Catholic Church in Lebanon using Syriac Aramaic, Assyrian/Chaldean Churches using Assyrian Aramaic etc). Of course, many of these people do consider themselves as Arabs, but there are are many who do not.
    Once again, the Punjabis, Pashtuns, Balochis, Sindhis are distinct ethnic groups with their own languages. And sure there is resentment from some groups against Urdu. But, if there are adequate educational policies in place to preserve and promote these regional languages, there is no reason why a language such as Urdu could not act as a unifying force. The same wold/could hold true for MSA.
    Regarding using the colloquial languages as national languages, this has been raised in some circles and is again highly controversial. I am aware that many Lebanese scholars insist that Lebanese is a distinct language to Arabic and treat it as such, whilst I have heard the same claim from certain Egyptian and North African scholars. Proponents of making dialects national languages often state that whilst MSA is "Arabic", dialects are distinctly specific, organic and authentic to the country itself (whether its identity be Arab, other, or mixed) and thus can accommodate the identities of all citizens of the country. On the other hand, the ideas of pan-Arabism and Arab Unity conflict with this, claiming that all of the speakers of Arabic dialects are Arabs and need a unifying language (MSA) to maintain this identity. In this way, abolishing the language at an official level would be extremely controversial to some and seen as a direct attack on Arab unity. This is not something many people wish to do. As you can see, not too many people at the high level are prepared to cause that level of controversy.
    Are you aware if Lebanon's colloquial has produce anyone comparable with the statue of Jibran Khalil Jibran? I wonder why he did n't choose to write in the "distinct Lebanese language". Have any of the Lebanese and Egyptian scholars written anything of note in their respective colloquials? Or is this just scholarly talk? People should not be compelled to give up their colloquial dialect as a matter of state policy. This would surely be counter productive and therefore work against the spirit of Arab unity. If the colloquials are not going to go down the route of languages to be used for the purpose of education, then what choice do the Arabs have but to promote mass education in MSA? Surely not English or French?
    [...] It goes back to what aisha93 said - proficiency in English (or French) is more important for education, communication and employment. When combined with music, movies, pop culture, and the fact that most of the internet and international communication is in English, it is easy to see why parents and children focus on it so heavily. This is not unique to the Middle East in any way, obviously. Global trends are truly global, for better or for worse. When you already have a "cultural" language to fulfill your cultural needs and speaks directly to the national psyche (the local dialect), as well as English or French, it is often enough for some people to have a passive understanding of MSA to comprehend and somewhat communicate in news, official documents and religious contexts.
    A better solution then might be to remove MSA from the Arab scene altogether and employ the local colloquial for everyday use and use English and French "for education, communication and employment" and anyone interested in reading material such as the Qur'an, Classical Arabic literature and modern MSA literature can do so in translation, if one is available!
    Qureshpor, regarding your "in vain" comment - definitely not! MSA is held in high esteem in many circles and as stated, can be communicated in by most people at least to an extent. You will have access to so much literature and other written material and also be able to communicate with millions of people across a huge and very important region of the world. Speaking one dialect will not get you that. Then, if you decide to learn a dialect, you will have an extremely strong base to go from and it will be very easy to do so. I strongly encourage continuing on your journey to learn MSA!
    Thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by vinyljunkie619 View Post
    Could you quote me where I said they were unable? No. I said since most texts are unvoweled, they are not being forced to use case endings, which is fact. Most people read fos7a as a formal colloquial...
    Apologies if I misunderstood your post. I thought you meant that Arabs find written Arabic difficult to read because of absence of short vowels.

    I don't think case endings are the be all and end all. Not every "un", "in" or "-an" needs to be pronounced to keep the information unambiguous. The language can still remain MSA without a lot of the nunation.
    Last edited by cherine; 24th October 2013 at 1:32 PM. Reason: Merged 3 consecutive posts. Please use the multi-quoting feature. Thanks :)

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    Quote Originally Posted by aisha93 View Post
    The reasons you mentioned are sadly true.
    But the difference between MSA and colloquial dialects is wider than that of, say, formal Persian (or English) and informal Persian (or English). That is probably true for Urdu too. You know better of course. (see post #6 by barkoosh, it mentions the huge differences very nicely)
    I think colloquial Persian is quite different from Formal Persian. As far as British English (for example) is concerned, there are regional variations in pronunciation and at times vocabulary differences but for the latter one has only the odd word here and there. Geoffrey Boycott speaking in his typical Yorkshire accent is understood by cricket lovers worldwide just as easily as they understand Henry Blofeld at the other end of the English speech spectrum.
    I don't know if this is related, but even in pronunciation, very few people pronounce the letters 100% correctly. If you're familiar with all dialects then you can tell where an Arab person is from even when they speak in MSA (except for professional journalists and presenters or clerics of course).
    Well, variation in the way consonants are pronounced does not take a language further away from what is considered "standard" speech. Take the letter "d" for example in "murder". A Scotsman will pronounce this quite differently from a typical English person. And the Scottish person could be a professor of English language. Americans pronounce one or two consonants differently. But Obama's English is still standard English and not colloquial.
    If you give us a paragraph (in MSA) and ask us to point out the diacritics, then the majority of us are bound to make a few mistakes although we perfectly understand what the paragraph says. My point is that very few people are aware of all the ins and outs of Arabic grammar. I am certainly not among them but I am trying to learn or re-learn it though English is of more importance to me because of my major. I hope you get my point
    .
    Yes, I follow your thinking. Unless one has interest or "business" in the field of grammar, not many natives of any language will be able to explain to you the "ins" and "outs" of their language. In this sense, Arabs are going to be no different from anyone else.

    analeeh, thank you for your sober comments (Post 34). I can see that MSA and Standard English are not exactly analogous. But you would agree that the only reason why an ordinary English speaking individual is able to become part of the English speaking world is because s/he is taught to read Standard English from nursery school on wards, watches TV and listens to Radio that is in the Standard language and reads material (magazines, newspapers and the like) in a language that is Standard English.

    There is nothing wrong whatsoever for Arabs or for that matter any other peoples to learn English, French or any other global language which they feel serves their purpose. But, if it means that in pursuing this goal, they could lose another global language, namely their own, then this would indeed be a high price to pay.

    Quote Originally Posted by إسكندراني View Post
    There are MSA environments, but its a matter of personal choice. Ew people grow up surrounded by the queen's English all their lives either, but attending a grammar school and tuning in to radio four will affect the way they end up speaking. Even having said that they will still address their plumber in a different register.

    to make it clear, the big deal with msa not being speakable is indicative of a lack of exposure to the arab world at length, few people speak it as a first language but most educated arabs acquire it to some degree. In egypt just as much as anywhere else.
    I have always spoken to my plumbers in no different a register than I speak with other people. Unless of course my plumbers are the same as the ones the Queen employs or they have all attended grammar schools and are avid listeners of Radio 4!
    Last edited by cherine; 24th October 2013 at 4:41 PM. Reason: Merge 3 other consecutive posts. Please use the edit function if you need to add to a post within 24 hours.

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Quote Originally Posted by Qureshpor View Post
    We have a comparable situation in Pakistan. There are regional languages such as Pashto. Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi and others. I as a Punjabi speakers would have to resort to Urdu to communicate with people of other ethnicities within Pakistan.
    So I've been told by my Pakistani friends. Seems to work quite well. :-)

    Once again, the Punjabis, Pashtuns, Balochis, Sindhis are distinct ethnic groups with their own languages. And sure there is resentment from some groups against Urdu. But, if there are adequate educational policies in place to preserve and promote these regional languages, there is no reason why a language such as Urdu could not act as a unifying force. The same wold/could hold true for MSA.
    Not really. Many people in these minority groups actually see Arabic as a language of their oppression and a threat to their culture and livelihood. For right or for wrong.

    There aren't any such policies. People are taught that their entire dialect is "slang" and cannot be taught/written because they have "no grammar or rules". These are highly highly politicised issues.

    Are you aware if Lebanon's colloquial has produce anyone comparable with the statue of Jibran Khalil Jibran? I wonder why he did n't choose to write in the "distinct Lebanese language". Have any of the Lebanese and Egyptian scholars written anything of note in their respective colloquials? Or is this just scholarly talk? People should not be compelled to give up their colloquial dialect as a matter of state policy. This would surely be counter productive and therefore work against the spirit of Arab unity. If the colloquials are not going to go down the route of languages to be used for the purpose of education, then what choice do the Arabs have but to promote mass education in MSA? Surely not English or French?
    Yup! Said Akl from Lebanon is one of the country's most famous poets. He is an absolutely fierce advocate of the Lebanese language, which he claims is a Phoenician/Aramaic/Syriac language with an Arabic influence. He is known for being opposed to an Arab identity of Lebanon and claimed that MSA would disappear from Lebanon. He designed a Lebanese alphabet based on the Latin system and also published a newspaper in it. You can read about him on Wikipedia.

    About the idea of giving up colloquial dialects as a matter of state policy, from what I understand, this was one of the goals of the Nasser era. Since that period and its ideology have drifted into the past, the use of dialects again increased. But as far as I know, they are not official or encouraged or protected in any country.

    A better solution then might be to remove MSA from the Arab scene altogether and employ the local colloquial for everyday use and use English and French "for education, communication and employment" and anyone interested in reading material such as the Qur'an, Classical Arabic literature and modern MSA literature can do so in translation, if one is available!
    As stated, this is highly controversial. It would be seen as a direct attack on the ideals of Pan-Arabism and Arab unity. This could have severe repercussions; so even though many people probably feel this way, they fear the consequences of raising the idea.
    Last edited by k8an; 24th October 2013 at 5:54 PM.

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Reply to Post 33

    If I am not misunderstanding you, your post implies that if Arabic was written with all the relevant vowels, people would begin to vocalize correct Arabic and then MSA would reign supreme everywhere in the Arabic speaking world.

    [Sorry, Cherine. I've failed again in my attempt to join this with my other posts!]

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    Re: Transition from Colloquial to MSA

    Quote Originally Posted by Qureshpor View Post
    Reply to Post 33

    If I am not misunderstanding you, your post implies that if Arabic was written with all the relevant vowels, people would begin to vocalize correct Arabic and then MSA would reign supreme everywhere in the Arabic speaking world.

    [Sorry, Cherine. I've failed again in my attempt to join this with my other posts!]
    Not, reign supreme, but people would be more competent in it... most lazy people have the mindset as "well, they didn't write it that way, so we don't have to say it that way," without repetition, there is no way of actually committing it enough to memory to faithfully reproduce it with any level of fluency. That is why MSA for the most part is universally understood, but your everyday Arab would scramble for the correct words and grammar to put together a fully cohesive MSA sentence, that's why you see most educated folk use MSA styled words without grammatical inflection - mainly Fos7a-isms
    EX
    people using the word Dhahab instead of Rou7, but making no distinction of Present indicative/subjunctive/jussive (Adhhabu, adhhaba, adhhab)
    people using the word Ra instead of Shaaf (only tunisian dialect and maltese still use these words)
    Pronouncing the letter Q when in formal situations
    un-deleting vowels - msa3da to musaa3ada, raqsa (dancer) to raaqisa, ketbet to katabat, etc.

    MSA became lessER and lessER of a requirement when dialects reigned supreme on radio and TV.
    In Lebanon, you will never need Fos7a unless you go to an Arabic school.

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